To go or to stay? 0
Growing up in the small southwestern Ontario town of Wiarton, I couldn’t wait to get out and see the world.
Part of youth culture was to daydream of the city; envision living in a condo on Front Street in Toronto, going to coffee shops and attending concerts and generally being urban.
To endeavour to stay was frowned upon.
And the older you got, the more moving made sense.
Want to go to university or college? You’ll need to go to the city.
Want to find a good paying job? Far more of those in the city, too.
These cultural norms nearly expel young people from small towns, draining rural areas of new ideas, young workers and families that can grow an economy.
They also jeopardize the success of rural youth.
According to a backgrounder by TYPS (Town Youth Participation Strategies), at least 40 per cent of homeless youth in cities have migrated there from rural Canada.
For those who don’t end up homeless, there is the heavy burden of postsecondary education debt (sitting at an average of $37,000 per student in Ontario) that makes moving back to their hometowns much harder.
A new study of rural youth is examining the issues related to leaving small towns for bigger cities and what happens to those who run into problems along the way.
It is important to our community and the thousands of others like it across the country.
And it just happens to be conducted by this county’s own Dr. Fay Martin, a researcher with a background in social work.
Martin is putting together one of the few studies of rural homelessness – a field normally dominated by the urban lens – called To Go or to Stay?
The results will be wide-ranging and potentially groundbreaking for the Haliburton Highlands.
In it, 60 youth will reflect on why they left or stayed and what could have been better for them along the way – information our county, businesses, educators, citizens and government alike, can reflect on.
The culture of leaving is alive and well amongst Haliburton’s youth.
Perhaps Martin’s study can be a first step in getting them back.
(To Go or to Stay? is looking for participants. See story on page 8.)